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    Are we here because we’re here?

    Shavu’ot reminds us of the duty when the Temple stood to bring “to the House of the Lord your God” the first fruits of seven species associated with the Holy Land (Ex. 23:19, 34:26; Deut. 26:1-12).

    With his basket on his shoulder, the pilgrim was to make a declaration recalling the whole history of Israel up to the point that the people entered the land and produced their crops. Not only was this an expression of gratitude to God for the bounties of the land, but it connected Jewish history with the Divine design.

    Not for the Jew is the pragmatic attitude of the old song, “We’re here because we’re here because we’re here”. The Jewish attitude is, “We’re here because God put us here and because we have a task assigned to us”.

    Dayan Grunfeld points out in his classical work, “The Jewish Dietary Laws”, 1972, that the Jewish mystics “see in the solemn declaration to be made when the first fruits are offered, a parable of man’s pilgrimage on earth and his preparation for the hereafter through the study of Torah and the performance of good deeds. The word ‘Land’ contained in the initial sentence of the declaration, ‘And it shall be, when thou art come into the Land which the Lord the God giveth thee for an inheritance’, they take as Olam HaBa, meaning the higher World to Come” (chapter 10).

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